A Princeton woman is warning British Columbians to steer clear of utility provider Summitt Energy, after she was charged $691.70 to cancel her contract — despite employee assurances she could do so without penalty.
Deborah Bradshaw-White and her husband signed up with Summitt in 2017, using the company's natural gas to heat their North Vancouver home.
Last January, the couple's three-year contract came up for renewal. Bradshaw-White says she was happy with the company's service up until that point, but worried about renewing, as the couple planned to move to Princeton and didn't know if their new home would have access to natural gas.
"Two people who work for [Summit] said it wouldn't be a problem," said Bradshaw-White, 56.
"Turns out that was incorrect."
New home doesn't have natural gas
In June, the couple moved out of the Lower Mainland, renting a house 28 kilometres outside of Princeton. Their new residence has electricity and a wood stove for heat. It does not, however, have natural gas.
That same month, Bradshaw-White says she called Summitt to cancel their service, but the company pushed back, asking to see a copy of the couple's rental contract. Bradshaw-White sent them a copy, along with screenshots from the FortisBC website, showing natural gas is not available in the couple's neighbourhood.
Three months passed with no reply.
In September, the company wrote to the couple to tell them they owed $691.70 if they wished to cancel early.
"Oh, I was angry. I was really quite perturbed," said Bradshaw-White. "If you can't use a service then why would you pay for it? Why would you not move somewhere because the service can't be provided there?"
In an email, Summitt Energy confirmed that customers can have their agreements cancelled without penalty if they move outside of Summitt's "eligible service territory."
Jeff Donnelly, Summitt's director of regulatory affairs and compliance, confirmed that staff asked Bradshaw-White for her rental agreement as proof of the couple's move, but says she did not send it until late August, shortly before the bill arrived.
After being contacted by CBC, the company agreed to close Bradshaw-White's account and waive the $691.70 fee.
They may have rectified the situation, but the company's reputation remains questionable.
Summitt Energy currently holds an F rating with the Better Business Bureau — the lowest rating on the agency's scale — indicating consumers should approach with caution.
A spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau says companies and consumers need to establish expectations in writing in order to avoid complications down the road.
"Writing ensures that it's not a case of his word versus mine," said Lower Mainland BBB spokesperson Karla Laird.
"Whatever is there is what everyone's going to be held accountable to."